Friday, May 25, 2018

CCDD 052518—Bloodspill r5

Cool Card Design of the Day
5/25/18—Yesterday I processed the comments the GDS3 judges gave me on the bloodspill mechanic I submitted. Because I'm still really excited about the gameplay it creates and I now have tons of perspective and advice to apply to the idea, I've re-worked it. Unlike the original, this is un-playtested, so it's possible this isn't as fun as it looks or that certain tweaks playtesting would reveal are possible but unseen.

There are 38 cards below, which is far more than a set would devote to a three-color mechanic, but we're not building a set, we're exploring a mechanic, and that means considering as many executions as possible so that we can pick and choose the best.

Let's start with the common most representative of the mechanic. Bloodspill now means only one thing and that thing is now deadly simple: Did anyone lose any amount of life this turn?
The two big changes here are that the threshold has been reduced from 3+ life to 1+ life, and that the card no longer invites players to spill their own blood. The first change removes all possible confusion about when blood has been spilled. The second reduces the versatility of bloodspill cards in a vacuum, but no longer causes new players to hate the mechanic immediately because it reads like a downside to them.
This new presentation makes it clear that Plan A is to deal damage to your opponent by attacking with creatures.
Maybe you'll see Plan B as a defensive ability to turn on if you get hit, but the vast majority of bloodspill cards aren't instants because we don't want your opponent to be afraid to attack you.
Common Enablers
(As usual, I'm not actually suggesting bloodspill's set be hybrid. If it is, sure. But generally I'm just saying this concept could go into black or red as the set needs.)
Most players won't see Plan C at first, which is great. The ability to hurt yourself should be lenticular. Let players discover it at their own pace and they'll feel clever when they do.
The set wouldn't have both Twisted Advice and Night's Whisper, and it needs the enabling reprint more, but it's still useful to show how bloodspill could subvert black's normal you-pay-life paradigm somewhere.
We don't need Ritual Cutting, Share Pain, Do Harm, and Release the Charge. I'd probably go with Release the Charge and either Share Pain or a mono-black version of Do Harm, to make our non-creatures more enablers than recipients of bloodspill, and so that black and red each have one.
Since we're ditching double strike, let's make Goring Taurean more like it's namesake Taurean Mauler. (Maybe it should trigger every end step, but I didn't want to discourage attacking.)
In this model, it's harder to cast Jund Vengeant before blockers, but by adding an alternative cost, we give the player a reason to flash it in after combat and still be happy about it.
This version of Field of Gore can't guarantee it'll ETB untapped. It's up to you to figure out how to spill blood if you want to use it immediately, and that's work worth rewarding.
Alternately, you can require the player to spill blood every turn they want Field of Gore to fix their colors.
And, of course, the other direction to take—and this solves the problem of having to cycle out five lands with different abilities—is for your land to enable bloodspill. That's awfully strong though, so we might reprint Mana Confluence in a set adjacent to bloodspill's.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the ability to pay life to upgrade your Bloodthorn Acolyte so that it can turn on bloodspill when it hits your opponent next turn (or turn on a same-turn Cylian Physician), but we've gained so much more: Clarity of purpose, reduction of complexity, removal of unappealing text, and the opportunity for players to make chain enablers and bloodspill cards. I've also done away with the unjustifiable double strike, and justified flash. By removing Kresh's ETB effect, we've got something that's still dangerous but requires actual work, and is a closer homage to the original Kresh the Bloodbraided to boot.

Design your own bloodspill card or enabler in the comments.


  1. I honestly preferred your original threshold of 3, because it allows for more impactful rewards, while 1 feels a bit too easy, but maybe it's just too confusing to track.

    1. 1 is also so close to Bloodthirst that it's hard to imagine not just using that instead.

    2. The threshold was very relevant. It wasn't enough to get a 1/1 through. You were able to combine two creatures to get the job done. I miss it too.

      And to be clear, I wouldn't assume this is the correct path without testing it as well as "Blood is spilled as long as any player has lost N or more life this turn." As long as it's crystal clear what counts and what doesn't, threshold 1 is not a requirement.

    3. Maybe "Blood is spilled as long as N or more life has been lost [by any combination of players] this turn" but probably not.

    4. Hm, the idea of looking for a total amount of 'blood' regardless of player is neat, but hard to word.

  2. This could also be templated as an ability word:

    Bloodspill — Bloodthorn Acolyte enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it if a player lost life this turn.

    But that really doesn't have the same ring to it.

    1. My bold opinion is that ability words will be obsoleted by this approach, as we discussed a few weeks ago.

    2. I was going to suggest the same thing. This is what ability words are for - to make it clear there's a common theme across all the cards without defining a new rules term. (New rules terms need reminder text to go along with them, which increases word count, which is a big problem at common.)

      "Bloodspill — Bloodthorn Acolyte enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it if a player lost life or took damage this turn." (129 characters)

      "Bloodthorn Acolyte enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it if blood was spilled this turn. (Blood is spilled whenever a player loses life or takes damage.)" (165 characters)

    3. "It turns out that most players skip over ability words. Keywords require you to understand what they mean because they carry mechanical weight, but ability words are followed by text that explains exactly how they work. As such, players have learned to gloss over ability words and they do a poor job of conveying flavor." - Mark Rosewater

      I've personally felt this way about ability words for a long time. While this result leads me to just want to avoid ability words entirely, I can understand that ability words can still serve a role. If their function isn't to convey flavor, then an ability word is relatively fine.

      Bloodspill might not need to be a keyword, because the flavor is already clear enough and all, but I just prefer it that way frankly.

    4. I prefer the ability word approach as well. Play(test)ers may skip over them, but having an ability word is better than having no mechanic-unifying word at all. It's much easier to talk about "landfall cards" or "battalion cards" than "cards that trigger whenever (this event happens)."

      For bloodspill specifically, "a player loses life" is already a very simple concept that doesn't need a thin layer of flavor papered over top of it.

      Historic's problem is that artifacts don't feel historic. An "artifact" by the English definition of "an object from long ago," is historic. Artifacts, in the Magic definition of "a colorless permanent," are quite often mundane, modern, or futuristic. Even the Dominaria set, which tries to flavor specific artifact cards as thousands-year old relics and archaeological finds, has some oddballs like Bloodtallow Candle and Short Sword.

    5. I agree about historic/artifacts. And I agree that "a player loses life" is indeed a very thin layer to apply a definition to. I do think the above cards have a clear handle for players to reference, though.

    6. I keep thinking of it as shuffling through your collection finding the 'spill blood' cards - it would be way easier to find them with an ability word.

    7. To be clear, I wasn't saying bloodspill cards shouldn't have some identifier (whether it be ability word or keyword). I was arguing that ability words-as-identifiers are probably better done as keywords-as-identifiers, like I suggested with Delirious on CCDD-041818.

      I agree it's important to have an identifier for a shared mechanical theme. I just believe that ability words can almost always be replaced by keywords. Yes, there's tradeoffs, but I think there might be gains as well. That's what I really liked about the original, keyworded, bloodspill.

    8. Once they start bolding keywords, that'll be a much more visible solution than ability words.

  3. I agree this is a vast improvement, although I think it is even better if you remove counting damage to yourself and just make an ability word version of Bloodthirst, which I think is inevitable.

    Caring about your opponent losing life is just so much more natural than caring about either player, and I think you are hurting yourself by having that fight. It also has huge issues in constructed, where you automatically lose life to your mana base whenever you want, so the ability would always be on.

    Of your designs, Harbinger of Gore excites me most as a new direction for Bloodthirst that doesn't feel like it is just a rehash, but still fits in the same space. Nice job!

  4. If you really wanted to justify the "blood was spilled" keyword, you could make it a batch:
    Whenever a player loses life or a creature dies, blood is spilled.
    That's got good flavor, but sounds too easy to pull off.

    1. Definitely too easy, and it's starting to become very clear how it overlaps both bloodthirst and morbid.

    2. Overlapping two existing mechanics seems better than overlapping one, in a vacuum where the theoretical mechanic isn't justifying its existence alone. I think bloodspill is, but if it weren't, I'd be happy to overlap both bloorthirst and morbid… if not for that being too easy to accomplish.

    3. My reaction to your original GDS entry was to go the opposite way as here, and iterate on the "You may spill blood to..." kind of decision, and make it "To spill blood, pay three life or sacrifice a creature."

      I don't claim this is a very appealing mechanic, as most players neither want to pay life nor sacrifice creatures, however it does meet the requirement that it becomes more interesting at higher volume, as you cannot pay 3 life very many times in a gmae of Magic before it becomes a serious issue. As such, you're pressured to find sacrifice fodder. But if you draw your cards out of order, you have some flexibility in the early game.

  5. What problem is this mechanic trying to solve here? Like bloodthirst, it encourages attacking and presses the advantage of a player who is already ahead on board and able to get damage through. Bloodthirst also has the problem of encouraging ground stalls as players become reluctant to race when they know letting through damage could powerup an opponent's cards. On balance, Bloodthirst has been fairly positively received. Even reprinted. I'm just not entirely sure that most sets really want a win more mechanic like Bloodthirst, Magic is already very tempo oriented and that cascading gameplay usually isn't well received by players even if the mechanic isn't identified as a culprit.

    But that's Bloodthirst. How is Bloodspill different? Bloodspill Distinguishes itself by including effects that cause an opponent to lose life (corner case) and mostly by triggering when you lose life. That should mean it's like a catch up mechanic, however because most spells are sorceries it doesn't work out that way. Instead, it encourages effects that cause you to deal damage to yourself, which is counterintuitive and further punishes players who are behind. Or it wants to be printed on Instants, which then exacerbates the board stall problem already inherent in Bloodthirst environments because people don't want to turn those spells on by attacking.

    In short, I don't understand the "why" of this mechanic beyond the flavor.

    1. I think this is a really good mental check on the quality of a mechanic. I didn't really think this out until you expressed it so clearly Wobbles.

      I do appreciate how much cleaner the execution is in this article, but I am left wondering if "if (no) life was lost this/last turn" is just shorter and easier to grok. I'm kinda mixed on the whole Ascend direction for mechanics. Even though it can lead to some really cool phrases (like the force mechanic you did a while back), I wonder if the work introducing terminology is worth it.

    2. This is an excellent question to ask.
      My answer is that it bloodspill creates unique gameplay and is a ton of fun.
      Maybe that's not enough, but don't discount it until you've played with it.

    3. Id like to elaborate more on Bloodspill. I think that what it makes it interesting is the gameplay decisions you have with it. At first it looks like an aggresive mechanic. But when your opponent also control bloodspill triggers that act on your turn, it can be used as a deterrent. For example, Jay only showed this in one card, but one could also make activated abilities with bloodspill

  6. OK, that's a lot clearer!

    I really want to see some playtesting. I thought threshold 3 was interesting because it was less like bloodthirst. Maybe 2 is the sweet spot?

    I'm not sure about counting your own life loss. I agree with the downsides, that focussing on the combat-damage-to-opponent trigger is most natural, and that enablers can just as well be "damage to opponent" not "damage to you". But the option for more variety, and SOME cards that trigger off opponent attacks, are also interesting.

    I guess, activating off BOTH players having lost life would be too out there.

  7. I just wanted to add a templating comment: this mechanic triggers similarly to Morbid. This means that it checks if a player lost life this turn. Thus, I think that a clearer wording would be "Blood was spilled if a player lost (X) life this turn. Damage also causes loss of life."
    The (X) symbolizes that you can add any threshold to the ability. I also agree with Jack that making it 2 or 3 life leads to better effects. Bloodspill would need to be tracked once (is blood spilled this turn or not) so i think it can be done.

    1. Also, you can put activated abilities with bloodspill, just like Shadows over Innistrad Kindly Stranger

  8. I'm embarrassed to admit I've been a bit nehative during GDS, but this reworked form and mechanics are fantastic! Id love to get to play cards with this

  9. Thanks for posting about this mechanic again Jay! This cleaned up version is nice & easy to understand, and I think will still have good gameplay. And with room to fiddle around & see if 2 or 3 is a better threshold!

    On the cards you've designed - the majority of the creatures you've designed look super similar to raid & morbid creatures. Which isn't bad, but it is nice for comparison.

    I think you want some number of cards that have tension in how you want to use them. Too many of these is probably bad, but a couple can really show off the mechanic.

    Bloodthirsty Rage (unc)
    Gain control of target creature until end of turn. Untap that creature. It gains haste until end of turn. If blood was spilled this turn, instead deal 4 damage to that creature.

    ^ I was also considering RB, sacrifice the creature at end of turn if blood was spilled when you cast it. But that seemed confusing.

    Your green 3/1 indestructible looks weird to me, as green is the color least likely to be able to spill blood oustide of combat. Black would make more sense. Here's a green card with some tension:

    Savage Follow-up (common)
    Put two +1/+1 counters on target creature. If blood was spilled this turn, put an additional +1/+1 counter on it and untap it.

    I also made a card like this for an art challenge one time:
    Vengeful Shade (uncommon)
    Creature - Shade
    At the beginning of each end step, if blood was spilled this turn, put a +1/+1 counter on CARDNAME.

    ^ I agree with your red card that this probably isn't the best since it discourages attacking. However, something like this look like a good comeback card:

    Blood Blocker (common)
    Creature - Vampire Shaman
    At the beginning of each end step, if blood was spilled this turn, gain 1 life.